For the next two days, the search continued, albeit with shorter breaks.
The dungeon was still the same as usual, with only signs of monsters that seemed to give no clues, and Alexis could not shake off a bad feeling.
Eventually, the second day is over, and he takes a rest by deploying the mage's box garden.
Although Sara was not here, Fatima and Lily seemed to be able to deploy the box garden in enough time if they worked together, so they could use the box garden without any difficulty.
The second watchman that day was Fransisca.
Fransisca was sitting on a rotting roadside wall near the pillar of light created by the artifact, looking at the pillar of light in a daze.
At that moment, a shadow appeared and Alexis appeared.
Alexis was wearing his guardian's gear and when he saw Fransisca's face, he called out "Fransisca," and asked her to switch to the watchman's position.
「Would you like to switch watchmen?」
"What?" Fransisca asked him.
「I can't seem to sleep... so you can go to sleep now. You're tired, aren't you?」
Alexis smiles at her, but Fransisca feels uncomfortable.
「If you say so, isn't Alexis-sama also...」
「It's okay. I don't think I'll be able to sleep anyway. I'd rather not have to worry about you」
Fransisca looks worried.
「If you are worried about Jerome-sama... then I am worried about you, Alexis-sama. Even if you can't sleep, you need to get some rest... And I know it that you were on watch for two people yesterday too」
To Alexis' question, Fransisca replies, "Fatima told me".
「Well... yes, I did it...」
Alexis scratched his head awkwardly.
「You see, I can't sit still... I'm so restless. I feel like I have to do something」
Alexis looked down at his hands and clenched them.
「...Seriously.... What a pain in the ass aniki, he is. He's always been a hothead. He wants to do everything his own way. —Well, he does, and that's what pisses me off」
「...Well, unlike me, he has the ability to do whatever he wants, doesn't he? So, he's probably surviving somewhere in the dungeon, even if I'm feeling frustrated like this. He might tell me it's none of my business and not to underestimate him... because he's my Aniki」
「Actually, he's a much better handler than I am... because he's my aniki」
「...Alexis-sama. Are you sure he's doing what he wants?」
Fransisca's voice is quiet.
It seems sudden, and Alexis looks at her.
She stares into Alexis' eyes with clear amethyst eyes.
「—Jerome-sama, there are things that have not gone his way. That's me... Alexis-sama」
Fransisca noticed Alexis' agitated gaze after she said this. But then, Fransisca bowed her head and said, "...Please don't strain yourself. If you are tired, please call me right away".
After saying this, she went away into the box garden.
Fransisca was just curious.
She could feel his sense of inferiority in every word he said. It was as if he was saying, "My brother is better than me".
If she had remained silent, Alexis might have said, "My brother should take my place," and so, she interrupted him.
（...I've never seen Alexis-sama like that before）
Fransisca thought as she strolled through the well-kept garden.
（I always thought he was a strong, knowledgeable, generous, and honorable man）
「...Or Is it selfish of me to always want him to be strong...?」
Fransisca stopped and whispered in a muffled voice.
* * *
Alexis was sitting where Fransisca had just been sitting, thinking.
Why did she say that out of the blue? That's what he was thinking about.
That sounded as if she interrupted Alexis, who had started to embarrass himself, not wanting to hear any more of what he had to say.
"—Oh, I see," Alexis was muttering.
（She trusts me with her kingdom, herself, and everything else, doesn't she? It's natural that she hates it when I criticize myself...）
「...I have to stay strong. For her sake. So that she can take back her kingdom and her prestige with pride...」
Alexis was bracing himself. It was then.
A shadow formed in front of the pillar of light, and Eden appeared.
Eden looked at Alexis in silence.
"What?" Alexis asked Eden.
But Eden remained silent for a while.
He thought she came here for something. But she was so rude that she didn't say anything.
「...Princess of yours... I saw her. I thought... she had changed again」
Eden speaks in a muffled voice.
By talking to her again, it meant that she knew that he had taken over the watch yesterday and today.
It was her way of not wanting to talk to anyone else, and she didn't ask anyone.
（I thought she was not interested in me...）
Then, after another pause, Eden spoke again.
「...Prince... rest. I... watch」
「...You are even more blunt than Fatima. Even she, with her simple, direct speech, would not speak so haltingly」
Hearing Eden's simple and clear reply, Alexis let out a sigh.
It seems that the reason is quite different from Fatima's. But that's not the point.
「You don't have to worry about me. I'm here because I want to」
「But... I'm selfish. I'm... involving you all. This... is my, my responsibility. So...」
"Hmm," Alexis sniffed, resting his cheekbones on his knees.
「No one's feeling involved because of you. Besides, the blame isn't even on you. I mean, aniki is a grown man. You stopped him. Fatima stopped him. But aniki decided to come here, didn't he? So it's his fault. Am I right?」
Eden sighs and seems to be upset.
Still, it's hard to tell her expression. It is even more difficult to understand her because she is wearing an armet.
「...Okay, you should take off your helmet when you talk to people」
When Alexis pointed at her, Eden nodded her head and grabbed her armet tightly with her gauntlet-covered hand, then removed it.
Emerging from underneath was a young girl with short sky-blue hair and sleepy eyes with an innocent look on her face.
Looking at the girl's face, Alexis says, "Well, generally".
「It's aniki who puts the responsibility on a girl like you who only gives the impression of being a child. If he'an adult, no, moreover if he's a master. How can he not take responsibility for his vassal's words and deeds?」
Eden is silent, and what she is thinking, he doesn't know.
But Alexis had something to say.
「I see. So, Fransisca and Fatima were worried about you. You're taking things too far for a vassal. Well then, I'll say it again if you can't remember. I'm not here to help you. I'm here to help my people. My decision, my will!」
Alexis saw Eden's breath catch in her throat.
and he looked into Eden's eyes.
Eden almost opens her mouth, then immediately stops speaking.
Silence lies once again. Eden looks away from Alexis' gaze.
Seeing her like this, he felt the urge to do something about it.
He feels that he can understand Fatima's and Fransisca's concern for her.
She is—she is so stupid. To have a will of her own.
Alexis stood up and put his hand on Eden's head.
He pushed her shoulder and said, "Come back".
「You're supposed to show your cheerful side to my aniki, aren't you? Go back to bed」
Eden gave Alexis a look as if she wanted to say something.
However, she turned away from Alexis and obeyed his words.
（Really... —more and more, you can't stay dead, can you, aniki? I've got a lot to say about Eden as well. Still, stay alive, aniki...!）
Alexis thought so.
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